Thursday, 26 May 2011

On our way...

Just a quickie to say that we've made it as far as Manchester! Hopefully we'll arrive in Beijing on Saturday morning local time. I'll update again on our return but you probably won't get anything while we're in China. Have a happy week one and all.


Tuesday, 24 May 2011


No, today's post title is not a mythical place from Lord of the Rings but, rather, the name of an erupting volcano that is currently taking over conversation chez Warden. As the ash cloud hovers over northern Britain we are following the news avidly hoping that our plane will be able to take off on Friday. I have a scarily organised packing system going in hopeful expectation. As D rightly reminded me yesterday when I felt sad about the prospect of not getting to China, there will be people who are trying to travel to see sick relatives or to attend important family events; we are just attempting to go on holiday. So, we live in hope...

This week is taken up with meetings and uploading marks. I have spent a bit of time on the Book, though, and on a new paper which discusses the historical avant-garde archive as raw material for contemporary performance. It is a fun, challenging new project. Tonight we grabbed some sushi with our friends and then, as part of a Tuesday night tradition, watched WWE Tough Enough. What a great show! The Rock was on tonight and we are now left with three really good guys for Stone Cold to choose between.

And if you imagine that the Wardens have intense conversations about theology or politics or ethics then you would be mistaken - the chief topic of discussion this week was the difference between a bread bun and a roll. Hmmm...a question that will keep you awake this evening perhaps.

I'll post when we know more about our trip. "Ash cloud, ash cloud, go away".

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The real Wow factor (is there anybody out there?)

We're back in Lincoln after a couple of lovely days in Stockport. After last week's blog post bemoaning the overuse of that horrid cliche, the 'wow factor', D and I got to witness the real 'wow factor' at an unbelievable gig at the MEN arena. Roger Waters brought The Wall to Manchester and it was terrific. D had managed to get seats on the third row right in the middle. Here I am in my Yes t-shirt (you don't wear shirts of the band you are going to see - rock etiquette!) in front of the stage before it started. You can see Roger's long black coat in the background.

And here is a wee collection of photos from D's hands:

This is the wall at the interval. As the performance went on a huge wall made of white bricks was made to separate the band from the audience. In the interval they projected stories and pictures of folks killed as a result of war:

Over the years this album seems to have been transformed from something quite personal to something that makes a real political comment. It's political theatre at its best, in many ways. The projections were INCREDIBLE all the way through. In fact, they were probably the highlight for me, along with the amazing puppets...oh and the fireworks...oh and Rog playing up to the audience. But the projection was really special, particularly during 'Goodbye Blue Sky' and 'Comfortably Numb'

Here's Rog in his big black coat. I'm loving the iconography in this picture. It's a parody of a Nazi rally really, though it makes much more general comments on dictatorship, power and methods of control. D enjoyed being shot repeatedly with a machine gun:

And here's the great man again shouting at us. So, it was a somewhat unusual concert experience. Again, check on the amazing projection:

And after a great gig and the entire MEN arena shouting 'tear down the wall' at the top of their voices, the wall duly came down. As we were sitting on the third row, the backdraft created nearly blew me over. And this was the final projection:

So, what were my lingering memories of it all? Well, I appreciated the personal and the political messages of this piece. As usual with Rog's stuff he is ever concerned with the way we have 'amused ourselves to death' and the overwhelming feeling of futility that we can all sometimes experience. I love the way he is able to bring all this to his music, even if, by his own admission, he isn't quite as angry as he used to be. But I also really liked his analysis of contemporary politics, from American soldiers returning home from Iraq to the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes in London. In an era where music is largely (in fact totally!) empty and facile, forcing-feeding kids a diet of rubbish four-chord music and impossibly fanciful (and dangerous) impressions of life, here was some real music to inspire and challenge. Looking round and seeing D and the rest of the Floyd posse singing 'Comfortably Numb' with their arms in the air, it was hard not to be moved by the whole atmosphere. It felt, like D said later, that we had been part of something monumental. I was rockin' out with the best of them.

In fact he had two monumental music nights in a row, going to the MEN on the Thursday night to watch Rush. They aren't my cup of tea but D loved it. It led to a car conversation about why some music is definitely 'boy music'!

D is currently watching our DVD on The Wall live in Berlin from 1990 and I have a cup of tea to drink so I'll be on my way. Hope you enjoyed the review.


Monday, 16 May 2011

The Wow Factor

The title of today's blog is my least favourite aphorism in the English language. My hatred for this expression has been exacerbated recently by BBC Two's evening show, the Great British Menu. It is always quite fun to watch this while eating dinner (tonight it was hummus, falafel and salad pittas and frozen yogurt) but the frequent use of this cliche is driving me crazy. Tonight it was used five a half hour show! Insane! What does it mean?!

I followed that up with a lovely workout. Getting a bit sweaty every day is definitely the key. I wore my Lincoln City away shirt, still in mourning for the Imps' relegation nightmare. And (what is now a Monday night ritual) we watched Game of Thrones. It was a particularly brutal episode with slightly too much tomato ketchup for my liking. But this series continues to impress. Tyrion Lannister is still my favourite. He has all the best lines. As I said before, be warned if you are going to give this series a go! But it is a fascinating exploration of power and court corruption.

We had a great Sunday with a preach on election - all very interesting, particularly for me as a four and a half pointer! This after a terrific meal at Doddington Hall with our friends. I was very glad to see the ribs on the menu. I've been eating far more veggie food recently as it is better for me and for the world, but those ribs are just too delish!

Today I have been holed up in my office in my old jeans working through my marking pile. It isn't going too badly and, as usual, there are some very bright moments. One strong filter coffee, lots of water, a selection of tunes (from Zimmer's soundtrack to Modern Warfare to Asia's Omega) and the sound of Lincoln rain battering the window helped me through, that and the gradual countdown to concert excitement and our Beijing trip. We have now booked a trip to the Great Wall (figured it would be better to hike up with folks who knew what they were doing than wander around on our own) and a day exploring the lesser-known parts of the city off the tourist trail. It's going to be amazing. I can't believe it's just around the corner now. I feel as if I have a lot of work to do before heading off!

Well, D is watching Muse concerts on youtube and I fancy a cuppa before bed. More marking tomorrow, though I'm hoping to get some Book in as well. D has found a new cafe (now our beloved Portico has changed hands) called the Angel so I might give that a go for a couple of hours and crack on with the redrafting. Hope everyone is having a great week.


Saturday, 14 May 2011

Mancunian triumphs and Warden excitement

Saturday is here again and it's been a week of meetings, research and marking. The Book is coming on well, although I am at the stage of deleting words before I can write more. I've enjoyed a number of research-related meetings this week and feel thoroughly inspired. There are lots of little projects on the go and I've got a good plan for the summer.

Excitement is building for the Roger Waters' gig on Friday. We booked tickets for this ages ago and I haven't been allowed to watch any video clips on youtube. It's going to be mega, though I must admit I'm slightly nervous. At least we won't be waiting for Dave Gilmour to join him on stage. This historic event occured this week, unfortunately. D is off to watch Rush the night before. As part of my recent music education D has also booked tickets for, of all things, Iron Maiden in July. That should be a gig! You'll get full reviews, you lucky people.

To celebrate the start of a research summer, D and I want to the cinema on Wednesday night to watch Thor. I have a bit of a thing for these intelligent Marvel comic films and this was a good addition to the canon. He is a very striking young gentleman which only added to the general enjoyment.

And our China trip is just round the corner. We received our visas this week after a bit of faffing about in consulates. So it feels as if we can finally make some plans. Beijing just looks amazing. Be warned, there will be a lot of pictures to wade through.

Today is a lovely day of weekend relaxation. We started off with a game of squash (which D won) and then nipped into Waitrose on our way home. By this stage it became clear that Man United had won the league. Now I used to be a HUGE Man U fan but my fervour has waned over the past few years as money, spoilt superstars and foul-mouthed fans have ruined the game. Always good to see the Reds pick up another victory though. It was also delight for the team in blue as City won the FA cup. Manchester rules the footballing world! Tonight we are off for a jolly dinner at Doddington Hall.

And finally congratulations to our lovely friends Matt and Daisy on the birth of their wee girlie, Elloise. Hoorah and hooray.


Monday, 9 May 2011

Alba gu bràth

So, one noticeable thing I missed out of my last post was the election. In England it was boring, dull and predictable. But it was the Scottish election that kept the Warden household up. A virtually speechless D came to bed at about 3 in the morning. I sleepily asked what had happened and he replied (in a mystified voice) that the SNP had swept to victory and Labour had been well and truly smashed to bits. This went down rather well chez Warden. Salmond is a decent bloke and a canny politician, and his second in command, Nicola Sturgeon, used to be my boss and once very sweetly asked if I would mind passing the milk. Anyone who asks so politely surely has to be a good egg. Anyways, there was much happiness here and it is rare that politics leaves you with a warm glow.

The other thing I haven't mentioned properly yet is our latest TV series. We are currently enjoying HBO's Game of Thrones. Be warned, it is not for the faint-hearted, but there are a number of things to enjoy: 1) Sean Bean plays the lead. We love Sean. I need say no more. 2) there is a person of restricted growth (is that the right term?) playing a proper role. Generally disability is treated very poorly on TV and parts are few and far between. It is so refreshing to see an amazing actor in a brilliant role. Tyrion Lannister is fast becoming my favourite character. 3) it has a great soundtrack. 4) it is an incredibly exciting storyline populated by so many good characters. In typical HBO style it is a TV show that looks like a Dickens' novel.

I'm off for a snooze.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Back to blogging

So, as promised, I finally return to blogland after a week's hiatus. As predicted, blogging was not top of my list this week as assessments took over. But what a good week we had! It began with the first year performances. All the students had worked so hard and it really showed. My group then 'enjoyed' a super long tech rehearsal. Big up to our sensational LPAC tech boys who remained full of good humour even at 10.45 at night. I love tech rehearsals and even I was beginning to lose the will to live! The Adding Machine went really well and I was so proud of the students. They created something really innovative. Elmer Rice would have been very proud and, I imagine, somewhat surprised by the production. DV8 dance moves, plugging actors into computers and brilliant projections meant that it looked a little different from the original!

After the fire works of the first years, it was on to the third years' Early Modern assessments. I watched a lot of Volpone and Dr Faustus and was hugely impressed by the exciting work created. There were some really brilliant performances. We finally finished at 7.06 pm on Friday night. It was a long week, but it was all so fun. We have some brilliant, talented and imaginative students at the University of Lincoln and last week was a real celebratory showcase.

To end the week, I went to a conference on innovative women's theatre group, the Pioneer Players hosted by the University of Hull. It was a really great event. I don't know a great deal about this society but I want to mention it in the book. This conference was a really helpful introduction and allowed me to meet a load of interesting folks.

So, all in all, a good week had by all. And to top it off D has just booked flights back to Seattle for the end of August. We are so looking forward to seeing our friends again. I think we'll also be heading up to Canada - D really wants to take me to Vancouver. There were only two blips on my week...both sporting related: 1) Lincoln City were relegated from the football league after a terrible display at Aldershot. D went to support the Imps while I attended the conference and said it was the worst performance he had ever seen. The die-hard supporters were absolutely gutted. 2) Christian won the World Heavyweight Championship (hoorah!) and then promptly lost it to Randy Orton at Smackdown just five days later (boo!). Sorry, on to wrestling there just in case you missed the quick change of direction. At least it makes for a great storyline. D has booked tickets for Raw when the WWE hit the UK in November. So, I'll be attending my first live wrestling event.

Anyways, tomorrow is the start of my research summer, although this week is really taken up with meetings and marking. I am so looking forward to getting back to the Book and a number of other wee projects that I have on the go right now.

Hope all of you guys are doing well. This morning D and I were counting our blessings. He is great at this, while I have the tendency to find worries even when there really aren't any! I realised that life is proper exciting at the moment and I am so grateful for all that is going on.